Concern about running a hilly course after tweaking a gluteal muscle near the end of a recent workout was a non-issue for Vancouver’s Natasha Wodak, who was affected more by the cold and wind in Sunday’s New York City Half Marathon.
Her time of one hour 12 minutes 33 seconds was nearly three minutes off her 1:09:41 best that once stood as a Canadian record. Kenya’s Hellen Obiri, the Olympic and world championships medallist, was also three minutes off her best but still managed to break the event record in 1:07:21.
Wodak placed eighth among the women’s elite athletes, one spot lower than last year when the 41-year-old covered the 21.1-kilometre distance in 1:10:01.
“Not my best, not my worst,” is how Wodak summed up Sunday’s performance on Instagram. “It was really windy, really cold. Did my best to do what I could on a day when I didn’t feel great.”
The fact New York isn’t a record-eligible course silenced talk of Wodak trying to regain the 1:09:38 Canadian mark Andrea Seccafien wrested away three years ago.
Wodak told CBC Sports earlier in the week Sunday was more about how she competed against some of the world’s top runners, including three-time event champion Molly Huddle of the United States and her teammate Des Linden, the 2018 Boston Marathon champion.
Linden placed fifth in 1:12:21, only 12 seconds in front of Wodak and two spots ahead of Huddle (1:12:27) during her journey that began in Brooklyn, over the Manhattan Bridge, through Times Square and ended in Central Park.
I want to go to world championships [this summer] and place well, so the more experience I have running with girls that are the best in the world [the better].— Canadian runner Natasha Wodak
“There were parts of the race where I was fifth, sixth, seventh. Unfortunately, in the last mile I didn’t quite have enough to get in one of those spots,” said Wodak, who won $500 US in prize money for her performance. “It was pretty cool to battle [Linden and Huddle] for the last 5K.
“I want to go to world championships [in August] and place well, so the more experience I have running with girls that are the best in the world [the better]. There’s not many opportunities to compete with Olympic champions [like Obiri].”
Three runners Wodak coaches also raced Sunday: Katie Gordon (1:26:19), Melissa Raven (1:26:41) and Ellen Mulholland (1:27:35) are hopeful of running around three hours next month in the Boston Marathon.
“It’s nice to support them. I’ve coached them for about a year, and it’s been a lot of fun,” Wodak said. “They’re great girls and friends of mine as well.”
After spending a few days in New York, Wodak will return home this week to continue the 12-week build for her London Marathon debut on April 23. At the World Marathon Major, she will attempt the 2:26:50 automatic entry standard for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Last September, the two-time Olympian ran 2:23:12 in the Berlin Marathon to lower Malindi Elmore’s previous Canadian mark of 2:24:50.
Lanni Marchant, who formerly held national records for women in the half marathon and marathon, returned to road racing on Sunday and placed 19th in the women’s elite field (1:26:03) in New York following a six-month hiatus.
‘Each week I am seeing small gains’
At the end of last summer, the 38-year-old lawyer from London, Ont., suffered a plantar plate tear in her right foot and a fractured heel.
“Each week I am seeing small gains in workouts but I’m definitely still building back [my fitness],” said Marchant, who competed on the track in the 10,000 metres at the 2016 Rio Olympics and was 13th in the women’s marathon five years later in Sapporo, Japan.
“I’m using [the NYC Half] to gauge where I am at instead of worrying about where I want or wish to be.”
Calgary-born Rory Linkletter was the other elite Canadian runner in Sunday’s race, placing 15th in 1:04:21. He was 10th (1:02:19) last year in New York and clocked 1:04:28 six months ago at the Copenhagen Half Marathon in Denmark.
“I wasn’t my best today,” he wrote Sunday on Instagram. “Had loads of fun mixing it up with the best for the first 15K but went into survival mode with 5K to go.
“I feel like I’ve been doing my best and trending [in] the right direction in training.”
Linkletter, 26, was second among the elite Canadian men last October in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon where he stopped the clock in 2:13:32, over three minutes off his 2:10:24 personal best from the World Athletics Championships last July in Eugene, Ore.